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Scenario Design and Discussion
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Topic Subject: 2016 Historical Scenario Design Contest - Results in!
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posted 11-25-16 09:18 AM CT (US)   

Welcome to the 2016 Historical Scenario Design Contest, which is back after a hiatus of six years. This contest brings with it a broader scope than your average PTC or DTS contest, each of which prescribe a particular type of scenario design style; your options in terms of gameplay and design are nearly limitless, so long as they adhere within reason to the historical events that they portray. Such a contest welcomes designers of all skill levels and styles, so by all means, feel free to sign up and deliver your best effort!

The pages of history are littered with stories of powerful rulers, shrewd statesmen, fearless warriors, and decisive battles. To this day, people and states alike celebrate the memories of famed conquerors, defenders of the realm, ecclesiastical leaders, and intrepid raiders. It is now up to you, designers, to deliver entries worthy of the great names, causes, or wars that you choose to portray. Do justice to their great names, and in the process etch your own into the annals of AoKH scenario design fame!

For several excellent examples of scenarios that would fall under the category of "historical", check out these scenarios:

Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction - by Mark Stoker
Tannenberg 1410 AD - by Marko Crnigoj
The Princes' Revolt - by Julius999
The Battle of the Lechfeld - by aMa
Gyda's Challenge - by Ingo van Thiel
Dragon's Head, Serpent's Tail - by Al_Kharn the Great
Khabul Khan - The Conquest of Mongolia - by Bassi

  • Your scenario must depict historical subject matter within a reasonable sphere of accuracy. Differing interpretations of or slight variances from the actual events, or alternate outcomes are fine. You can even create your own characters within the scenario within reason. A good measuring stick here is the ES scenarios, which, while deviating from actual events and outcomes fairly often were still generally faithful to the subject matter. Just don't go making scenarios about King Arthur taking a trip to Mongolia.
  • The maximum map size of an entry in this contest is 255x255 tiles. Additionally, no maps smaller than 100x100 tiles are allowed.
  • Only one entry per forummer. No teams.

  • There are no restrictions on styles - you can have fixed force, build and destroy, defend the spot, even role playing games. Your scenario cannot be wholly a cutscene, however.

  • You may not enter a file that has been previously submitted to the Blacksmith. Projects in progress are, however, allowed to be entered. We would caution against entering your epic "life's work" style of project, as projects of that scale are unlikely to meet the deadline (or, in some cases, the contest guidelines).

  • The game must be a single player game. No multiplayer.

  • The use of AoE2HD or the UserPatch is allowed, as is the use of The Forgotten, African Kingdoms, and Rise of the Rajas expansions to the HD Edition.

  • Game modifications are allowed. Data mods, graphics mods, language file edits, and other file modifications are allowed. The use of AoK Trigger Studio is also allowed.
  • If the entry uses a published mod (such as Chivalry, ToME, FE, etc), then you need only say so and provide a link to the download in the file description.

    If you use modified files that you have created exclusively for your entry (this also applies if you have modified a published mod for your entry), then you will need to include all of the necessary modified files within the download. If you would like to create a custom installer to streamline what might otherwise be a particularly arduous installation process, then by all means feel free to do so.


All entries must be submitted to the Blacksmith by 11:59 pm forum time (CST), February 15, 2017. Submit in campaign (.cpx, if made in the CD version, or .aoe2campaign, if made in the HD Edition) format.

Please do not add the prefix "HSDC16" to the title of your entries. Instead, please post the tracking number (5-digit file number) of your entry in this thread when you have submitted it. You should indicate that your file is an entry to the contest in the file description on the Blacksmith as well.

Refer to the Scenario Design FAQ if you have questions regarding the uploading of files.

Certain types of scenario styles often make it desirable to use custom AIs to enhance the gameplay experience. For anyone struggling with AI scripting, this tool by Jan dc allows you to generate a competent AI tailored specifically to the needs of your custom scenario. Any other questions regarding AI scripting, if you should have them, can be directed to forummers in this thread or in the AI & RM Scripting Forum.


Traditionally, the staff have hosted contests here, and while that is also the case with this this contest, we are encouraging community members to volunteer as our second judge. If you are interested on being a judge, sign up in the thread. We may possibly have 3 judges if two good candidates apply.


1. HockeySam18
2. Cataphract887

The maps will be judged out of 50 points in the following categories:

• Gameplay and Entertainment - 25 points
• Technical Proficiency and Quality - 25 points

Gameplay and entertainment is a measure of how fun the scenario is to play, and includes such related factors as balance, creative objectives, etc. This is simply a measure of the judges' enjoyment of your scenario and is largely based on the judges' personal experience with the file.

Technical Proficiency and Quality is a measure of how well the scenario is made, and includes such related factors as the use of soundtracks and voice acting, trigger work, map design, bitmaps, dialogue, storytelling, instructions, etc. Simply put, a scenario scoring highly in this category is likely to feature excellent map design, an experience improving soundtrack or voice acting, seamless and well structured gameplay, and a clever if not overly complex setup/story. While not all the above are required to score highly, the judges are expected to put aside their personal preferences as much as possible and rate the overall quality of the scenario.

Both categories are scored from 0 to 25, with 0-5 being poor, 6-10 being below average, 11-15 being average, 16-20 being good, and 21-25 being excellent. Judges will be expected to use the entire scale, with poor entries scoring near the bottom, and the top entries scoring over 20 in each category, assuming a typical distribution of scenarios of variable quality.

Contestants: (submitted entries in bold text)

Mithril Knight
Al_Kharn the Great


1st Bassi: 43 (19 + 24) + 46 (22 + 24) = 89/100
2nd Al_Kharn the Great: 46 (23 + 23) + 42 (21 + 21) = 88/100
3rd Alkhalim: 38 (21 + 17) + 31 (13 + 18) = 69/100
4th MrMew: 30 (13 + 17) + 36 (17 + 19) = 66/100
5th Lildbehr: 33 (15 + 18) + 30 (14 + 16) = 63/100

*Knaber's entry crashed at the start for both judges, and as such could not be judged alongside the other entries.

Congratulations to the winners and all of the contestants on a strong effort!

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.

[This message has been edited by HockeySam18 (edited 04-10-2017 @ 12:57 PM).]

posted 01-31-17 12:04 PM CT (US)     106 / 178  
In the steam contest it had to be medieval, as far as I remember. But I don't find any limitations regarding to the epoch in the rules ...
posted 01-31-17 06:32 PM CT (US)     107 / 178  
The time period does not matter, so long as the subject is historical. Feel free to design a scenario outside of the conventional AoE2 timeframe of 400-1600 CE

The deadline has been extended to February 15.

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 02-12-17 08:22 PM CT (US)     108 / 178  
Almost time. Any new submissions on the way?

posted 02-13-17 01:25 AM CT (US)     109 / 178  
You should put the names of the people who have submitted entries in bold, so that it is easier to see who has submitted and who has not!

[This message has been edited by Knaber (edited 02-13-2017 @ 01:25 AM).]

posted 02-14-17 10:28 AM CT (US)     110 / 178  
Can't wait to see the results!

[This message has been edited by Cpt_Bridge (edited 02-14-2017 @ 11:24 AM).]

posted 02-14-17 09:11 PM CT (US)     111 / 178  
Sorry folks, mine isn't happening this time. Life got in the way.
posted 02-15-17 01:13 PM CT (US)     112 / 178  
Alright, my scenario finally is finished (arranging the voiceactors/filters/normalization/etc took some time... :P) 12866
posted 02-15-17 05:29 PM CT (US)     113 / 178  
The period to submit entries is now closed. Refer to the main post to see whose entries have been submitted and received. Judging will begin promptly.

CarolKarine, are you still able to serve as a second judge?

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 02-15-17 06:50 PM CT (US)     114 / 178  
So to whet our appetites during the judging, what are the entries about?

Mine is about Ragnar Lodbrok and the early Viking raids on England and France.

posted 02-15-17 07:02 PM CT (US)     115 / 178  
Mine is about Manco Capac, the last "Sapa Inca", who tries to defeat the Pizarro brothers in the Battle of Ollantaytambo.

The player is Inca. I did choose this civ, because the Incas are simply underrepresented in general in my opinion. They are for example the only civ that still hasn't an own official campaign[-scenario] (ok, in some scenarios of "El Dorado" you play as Incas, but that doesn't really count, since the campaign is still from the Spaniards' perspective).

My contest scenario is also the first scenario of a new campaign series, which is about the Spanish Conquista. It will be released in the next months. I already could release three scenarios (including the contest entry), but I'll wait until SkyBox fixes the bugs, that affect custom campaigns.
The campaign will take the player from Peru to Yucatan, to Mexico and to what nowadays is Malaysia. All Build & Destroy like "Kings of Destruction".
posted 02-16-17 02:33 PM CT (US)     116 / 178  
I can still judge. I'll get through them this weekend, I think, because after that I need to focus time on studying for a sedimentary geology test.

Proud owner of Splash Splash XLIV: Leave it there for someone to find, Which is on record for being the fastest thread to reach 2500 posts - which was completed in 28 hours and 17 minutes, from start to finish!
Yeah, the republican party is pretty much one big schizophrenic ball of contradictions nowadays. - Ax_man1
double post for milestone, then relentlessly bash on the community for the hell of it... stay classy thymole. - Lurker
posted 02-17-17 06:39 AM CT (US)     117 / 178  
My scenario revolves around the battle at the lake Trasimene between Hannibal and the Romans 217 B.C. It is part of a longer campaign (which it indeed is number 4 of). The previous missions only have been uploaded to the workshop, but if there is some interest in those I could put them onto the blacksmith as well.

I am really looking forward to your feedback!

(This actually is my first blacksmith entry)

[This message has been edited by Alkhalim (edited 02-17-2017 @ 07:00 AM).]

posted 02-17-17 09:16 AM CT (US)     118 / 178  
CK, I've shared a Dropbox folder containing the entries to your gmail account (not the one in your profile, the other one).

Lildbehr, I've noticed that your entry is a campaign of multiple fully-playable scenarios. While this is not technically allowed, I invite you to designate one of the fully-playable scenarios in the campaign to be judged by CK and I as an entry.

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 02-17-17 02:15 PM CT (US)     119 / 178  
Well then, play the fourth one. It should stand fairly good amongst all the other entries: But I think that, since all of my scenarios in the campaign are of a smaller scale, it could be counted as one map instead of several. (All maps combined couldn't even fill a ludikris map)

(The above poster is right, did you know that?)
Proud associate of Monsoon Studios
posted 02-17-17 03:51 PM CT (US)     120 / 178  
Given the monstrous size of ludakris (which is matched only by the magnitude of the lag from which it suffers), that's not particularly shocking

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 02-17-17 03:58 PM CT (US)     121 / 178  
Given the monstrous size of ludakris (which is matched only by the magnitude of the lag from which it suffers), that's not particularly shocking
What is the size of a huge map again? Is it 250x250? Not that it matters, but I still want to know.

(The above poster is right, did you know that?)
Proud associate of Monsoon Studios
posted 02-17-17 08:23 PM CT (US)     122 / 178  
Giant (selectable in the editor) is 240x240, but using utilities you can generate 255x255 maps, which is the largest size that the CD version will support.

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 02-18-17 00:03 AM CT (US)     123 / 178  
Given the monstrous size of ludakris (which is matched only by the magnitude of the lag from which it suffers), that's not particularly shocking
Only a fool would design a scenario on insanely large map like lufakris seriously who came up with the idea of such an absurdly big map ? Was it Hidden Path themselves ?

Fluctuat nec mergitur.
posted 02-18-17 02:53 AM CT (US)     124 / 178  
Only a fool would design a scenario on insanely large map like lufakris
*cough* HockeySam *cough*
posted 02-18-17 07:30 AM CT (US)     125 / 178  
Was anybody actually able to play the "York" scenario? I stand no chance against the lag ...
posted 02-18-17 09:17 AM CT (US)     126 / 178  
Believe it or not, the scenario actually was playable in the early stages of its development. Then a bunch of aspects of the game code got changed, causing things to go haywire.

Even so, filling such a large map is an immense commitment, and I completely underestimated the amount of time that would be required to do so with any sort of quality. The majority of the map is rather bland for my standards, although at least I initially managed to assure that all of the trees were green. Then a build came out that caused all of the rotations to change...

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 02-18-17 10:24 AM CT (US)     127 / 178  
I actually believe you, Sam, since a friend of mine bought the Forgotten Expansion quite early and couldn't understand when I was complaining about the lag. He lately tried again and told me, that nowadays he can't play the scenario, too, since now he gets the lag as well.

I think the map design was quite good compared to the size of the map. I quite like the harbor designs, mostly what you did with the bridges here.

Abut the lag again: First everything is fine. The lag starts when the AIs become active. Then everything is freezing constantly.
posted 02-27-17 09:54 PM CT (US)     128 / 178  
I can't test unless you're willing to wait until next week (my spring break). sorry, but the lull in classwork I was anticipating vanished.

Proud owner of Splash Splash XLIV: Leave it there for someone to find, Which is on record for being the fastest thread to reach 2500 posts - which was completed in 28 hours and 17 minutes, from start to finish!
Yeah, the republican party is pretty much one big schizophrenic ball of contradictions nowadays. - Ax_man1
double post for milestone, then relentlessly bash on the community for the hell of it... stay classy thymole. - Lurker
posted 03-01-17 08:18 AM CT (US)     129 / 178  
Can I still sign up to be a judge?
I haven't had an account for too long on aok heaven, but I've been playing this game for seven years now. I've played enough scenarios, both historical and entertainment-based ones to know which ones are good or bad- contact me for more questions you may have.(If I can still be one)
posted 03-03-17 03:00 PM CT (US)     130 / 178  
I think we're good for now, but we'll definitely consider you as a judge for future contests if you like!
I can't test unless you're willing to wait until next week (my spring break). sorry, but the lull in classwork I was anticipating vanished.
No worries, much the same thing happened to me

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 03-11-17 09:20 AM CT (US)     131 / 178  
How's the judging going so far?

~`o´~|\  Join the fresh and exciting AI Ladder for its fourth season!
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       |    Learn the joy of AI scripting in my guide: The World of AI Scripting
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   .....Hinga Dinga Durgen! - SpongeBob
posted 03-11-17 10:58 AM CT (US)     132 / 178  
I've been tied up with university obligations lately, but my write-ups should be done fairly soon.

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 03-19-17 01:53 PM CT (US)     133 / 178  
CK, how is the judging going for you?

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 03-22-17 07:20 PM CT (US)     134 / 178  
Cataphract887 has kindly offered to join the judging panel, so as to provide the contestants with a wider range of feedback and opinions

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 03-22-17 07:56 PM CT (US)     135 / 178  
Thanks for having me, Hockeysam Its looking to be a very interesting judging process with many high quality entrants! Ive already gotten into it, and hopefully we can come up with results in exactly......who knows when.

"Excellent could be any map that has the quality of a ES random map or ES scenario. AoK is an excellent, award winning game. That's where I'd start." -AnastasiaKafka

"Hard work is evil. Bitmaps are stupid. Working on a scenario for more than one afternoon is stupid. Triggers are stupid. Testing your own scenario is stupid. The world is stupid. You are the Greatest." -Ingo Van Thiel
posted 04-10-17 12:54 PM CT (US)     136 / 178  
At last, the long-awaited results!

Note: in the parenthetical addition portion of the scores, Cataphract887's scores come first in each individual parenthetical section while mine come second. Here's a legend in case that doesn't make sense:

[Name] [Combined gameplay/entertainment score (C887's score + HS18's score)] + [Combined technical proficiency/quality score (C887's score + HS18's score) = [Total score out of 100 points]

1st Bassi: 43 (19 + 24) + 46 (22 + 24) = 89/100
2nd Al_Kharn the Great: 46 (23 + 23) + 42 (21 + 21) = 88/100
3rd Alkhalim: 38 (21 + 17) + 31 (13 + 18) = 69/100
4th MrMew: 30 (13 + 17) + 36 (17 + 19) = 66/100
5th Lildbehr: 33 (15 + 18) + 30 (14 + 16) = 63/100

*Knaber's entry crashed at the start for both judges, and as such could not be judged alongside the other entries.

Congratulations to the winners and all of the contestants on a strong effort!

(A post with detailed analysis of each entry will be incoming shortly.)

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.

[This message has been edited by HockeySam18 (edited 04-10-2017 @ 01:36 PM).]

posted 04-10-17 01:08 PM CT (US)     137 / 178  
Trump's wall of text (my analysis of each individual entry) incoming:

Lildbehr - Folkungaupproret (Scenario #4)

Gameplay and entertainment: 18/25

Folkungaupproret is a campaign covering the tumultuous events occurring in Sweden during the 13th century. The fourth scenario in the campaign, which he asked be considered in the judging of the contest, comprises four different segments: the first a RPG, the second and third FF, and the fourth a B&D. The first two segments played rather well and without issue - the first required deft micromanagement to maneuver a unit along a road crawling with enemy units in order to reach your destination, while the second and third involved apt deployment and command of small military forces to achieve specific gains: the first being the storming of a fortress and the rescue of a hostage held there, and the second being the lifting of a siege. The final B&D stage presented a fair challenge but was hampered by a few flaws relating to the AI, the lack of space that the player is given to operate (considering the amount of unused space on the map, I think that a good deal of it could have been better appropriated for this portion of the gameplay), and certain red herring objectives (why would one build a castle on an island in a useless location with no reward when it would be better placed in a defensive or forward location?). Despite these flaws the scenario generally excelled at what the designer set out to achieve.

Technical proficiency and quality: 16/25

The author’s work merits rather high marks in the spheres of map design, atmosphere, and creative gameplay - especially praiseworthy is the use of video files and sound effects to enhance an experience marked by diverse gameplay and a story that, though at times seeming a bit rushed, generally complemented the gameplay well. Drawbacks included grammatical errors and misspellings in the texts and dialogue (understandable, considering that English is not the author’s first language) and the design of the B&D portion, which was unnecessarily cramped. It was somewhat disappointing to see the AI send forth the hero that you are instructed to kill as a suicide scout, and the ownership of the building assets from the second part of the scenario was not changed to a background player, meaning that the AI would train units in a region of the map that was cut off from the region where the action was occurring, detracting from its ability to perform effectively. The strength of the AI’s initial army during the B&D meant that spamming stone walls in the narrow corridor was the only answer to the initial attacks; however the AI was unable to deal with fortifications, making it easy to nullify any threat they might have posed.

Total: 34/50

MrMew - Yellow River Burning Bright

Gameplay and entertainment: 17/25

MrMew’s entry to the contest depicts the campaigns of the Song against the Southern Tang in the 10th century. The scenario begins with a FF naval engagement, where the player is required to micromanage their ships against those of the enemy while also avoiding dangerous rocks in the middle of the river. It’s a cool mechanic that adds flavor to what otherwise might have been somewhat bland and straightforward. Upon victory on the water, the player gains control of the Song assets north and west of the river, and is tasked with seizing the Southern Tang capital of Nanjing. In order to do so, the player must ensure the integrity of two pontoon bridges, which are the only routes across the river. Although the enemy player begins at a considerable advantage, the player is shockingly able to place stone walls in the middle of the pontoon bridges to stave off their advance, and defend the walls with their starting units plus the surviving ships (or the units they choose to move from the ships to the land--a nice touch!), which tended to detract considerably from the challenge. Booming up (despite the difficulty in finding locations for town centers) and attacking the vast enemy city was less difficult than I might have expected on hard difficulty, although it was nevertheless very satisfying. However, the playability of scenario was held back by a couple of issues relating to the game mechanics (which will be discussed in the appropriate category below), and ultimately could not be completed.

Technical proficiency and quality: 19/25

The designer deserves considerable praise for his work in terms of map design, atmosphere, and creativity; as far as I am concerned this is his best work to date. Sound effects and a solid background writeup complimented a gorgeous map and innovative gameplay, which nevertheless had its flaws. The aforementioned issue with the pontoon bridges is one; another is that the AI becomes considerably more inept should a pontoon bridge be destroyed - instead of blocking off the passage entirely, the designer uses looping task triggers, a mechanic that the AI does not recognize. The result was considerable lag as the AI fought the mechanics of the game and fruitlessly piled up its troops against an invisible barrier. Another issue was the defeat that is incurred without explanation when the enemy king is slain - although there may be historical justification for this, the logic of the game will nudge the player towards killing an enemy king unless they are explicitly told otherwise (upon further investigation, it seems that the issue stems from a set of objectives present at the start of the scenario being cleared and overwritten by another set). Finally, only one round of reinforcements ever arrived, meaning that accumulating the necessary number and type of units to station in the plaza to win the scenario was impossible. Solving the above issues will increase the score of the scenario considerably in terms of a future review.

Total: 36/50

Knaber - Kyoto (remake)

Gameplay and entertainment: N/A

Technical proficiency and quality: N/A

Note: Both judges encountered an instant crash when launching this scenario, despite having properly installed the edited files in the proper locations. As such, we were unable to judge this scenario.

Al_Kharn the Great - Ragnar’s Raids

Gameplay and entertainment: 23/25

Ragnar’s Raids is a fairly comprehensive (and ambitious!) take on the deeds of the semi-legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok and his family, drawing inspiration from a combination of historical literature and events as well as modern adaptations of the material. This scenario is quite long--at minimum it will take several hours to complete--and combines a vast array of RPG, FF, and B&D elements to create a product that is extremely enjoyable. Beginning as a humble farmer, you must lead your warband on raids, earning prestige and conquering other lands, rising to the position of Jarl and even eventually Konungr (king). As the scenario progresses, you will unlock new features and acquire new assets that are commensurate with your achievements; furthermore, additional heroic figures will spawn for you to command and every now and then you will be beset with the issues that such a grand figure might have faced. The immense number of events, quests, and objectives is staggering to say the least, and the scenario is remarkably well tested and polished for a work of its magnitude. If I had a criticism to make, it would be that some aspects of the scenario seemed rather drawn out - particularly on harder difficulties in the case of the major objectives it often seemed like you were following a fairly repetitive formula as you chipped away at an enemy, dealt with rebellions at home, recruited more men, and raided again ad infinitum until you finally completed an objective. Defeating all of your enemies (technically, destroying all of their major structures, but realistically this involved defeating them as well, at least on harder difficulties) is quite the undertaking and it would have been nice if there were alternate paths to victory, such as accumulating a certain amount of plunder or something similar as an alternative to the somewhat grindy route to the finish. Particularly as the scenario reached its later stages it felt like difficulty began to be replaced by tedium. This is not, however, to detract from the overall quality of this scenario in terms of gameplay; by all means it is exemplary in these regards.

Technical proficiency and quality: 21/25

The quality of the scenario is nigh unassailable in terms of creativity and atmosphere - the author combines an excellent background soundtrack and effects with a spectacular introduction and a modded campaign menu interface that fits the part. The text and ingame dialogues are engaging and utterly devoid of grammatical and syntactical issues, and help to drive the story while not being excessive. Various triggered mechanics (such as Alba militiamen that transformed into woad raiders, touches such as funeral boats at the player’s home town, and the numerous ingame events) demonstrated the author’s commitment to providing players with a memorable experience. If I were to suggest points of improvement, one would be around the erratic behavior of the orange player’s AI after the Jomsviking event - it seems to permanently enter an aggressive stage, which renders all other orange units on the map hyper-aggressive or dysfunctional (in the case of secluded locations), and detracts from their ability to guard their bases or fight the player effectively. On that note, the crafting of the AIs left a little to be desired - due to their tendency to send their entire army to respond to a faraway threat they were quite prone to abuse (e.g. send a couple units to attack a few enemy units far away from their city, wait for their entire army to run across the map, then smash their undefended town with your army) and their overreaction to faraway, trivial threats seemed incommensurate with the level of the threat posed. Another point pertains to the map design, and more likely than not this is due to the sheer scope of the map which simply makes it difficult to maintain an unwaveringly high level of quality throughout. While some regions of the map were nothing short of exemplary in terms of design (personal favorites included the region of Alba and several of the Scandinavian jarldoms), others left a little to be desired, particularly the city of Paris and the nearby forests, the town of York, and the wintry landscape in Scandinavia, which felt somewhat lackluster. Perhaps it partially comes down to a taste in design style, but I generally thought that the countrysides were of a slightly higher quality in terms of design than the urban locations were. This is a relatively minor quibble in view of the overall strengths of the scenario, and should by no means dissuade players from what is truly an excellent product.

Total: 44/50

Bassi - Manco Capac - The Battle of Ollantaytambo

Gameplay and entertainment: 24/25

Manco Capac - The Battle of Ollantaytambo casts the player in an underdog role, controlling a rebellious holdout of the Inca civilization as it struggles against its Spanish oppressors. After a short but effective and well-organized cutscene that establishes some visual and atmospheric context, the player is treated to a couple hours of intense and challenging yet enjoyable B&D gameplay. Initial adversity lies in a demanding combination of micro and macromanagement - a signature characteristic of the author’s works, and I found myself managing the defense of the mountain fortress while simultaneously building up an economy and exploring the map in search for allies and resources. The pacing of the scenario is a considerable improvement over the author’s previous works, which could perhaps be criticized for an excessively intense, arcade-style level of difficulty; this scenario, in contrast, feels far more fair and navigable, as the strength of the enemy players develops over time and is better matched to the progress of the player. Various sidequests, minor objectives, and shifting alliances add some spice to what would otherwise have been a rather straightforward but nevertheless enjoyable B&D - they are the icing on the cake, so to speak. Form almost flawlessly meets function in terms of the map design and triggered mechanics - the former point delivers an open but strategically challenging and extremely detailed (more on that later) landscape that is nearly flawless; due to its open and well laid out nature the playability actually did not suffer much (if at all) despite a noticeable use of the off-grid placement tool that is so often the bugaboo of the HD editor. The latter aspect (triggered mechanics) is notable for the way it augments or alters the strength of the enemy players through the spawning of certain units and even auxiliary attacks that keep the player on their toes and ensuring a fair level of unpredictability - you never really know what you’ll be getting. This scenario also did not seem remotely as prone to the flaw of fortification abuse that was characteristic of some of the author’s previous works; on the contrary, the player was required to continuously field armies of varied composition to defend their economy and fortress effectively. Despite a capable and challenging AI, given proper troop usage and strategy the player is certainly able to push forward and, while encountering staunch resistance, consistently experience tangible progress and move forward to victory.

Technical proficiency and quality: 24/25

The tense and varied atmosphere of this scenario is immediately palpable during the starting cutscene, which is remarkably well done and does not drag on for too long. In terms of mechanics, the apt use of background music and sound effects compliments a vibrant landscape brimming with things to discover and explore - it seems as if not an inch of the map was left undetailed. It should be noted that the map not just looks the part but is also laid out in such a way that the player interacts with it extremely well in terms of gameplay and entertainment. The aesthetic design and layout of the scenario is perhaps its strongest point, and is on a noticeably different level than that of the other entries to this contest. Verdant jungles and open grassland mesh brilliantly with detailed mountainsides and encampments whose layout is nothing short of exemplary. One of the most exceptional aspects of the map design is actually the river, where the author has taken a weakness of the AoE2 editor (water shorelines) and turned it into a strength: beaches and foliage blend seamlessly with fords and bridges, a true pleasure to the eyes. The overall result was that the map was not just gorgeous to look at but was also incredibly user-friendly and fun to play. Well-tailored AIs allow the computer players to function with some personality and play the map rather effectively, navigating the map well and also launching powerful attacks while effectively defending their own base as well as that of their ally. The scenario absolutely gleamed with polish save for one exception: the presence of a couple of minor grammatical errors (certainly understandable, as English is not the author’s first language) - perhaps the author would do well in having a second set of eyes read over the scenario text to proofread and check for the odd error here and there. In sum, this scenario was a pleasure to play and judge, and is certainly one of the best B&Ds ever produced for the HD Edition (and matches up quite well with those produced for the vanilla game as well)!

Total: 48/50

Alkhalim - Trasimene

Gameplay and entertainment: 17/25

The author’s rendition of the crushing defeat of the Romans at the hands of Hannibal on the shores of Lake Trasimene with a scenario with considerably promising gameplay elements and concepts that were ultimately hampered by their implementation. Although the AI players present little challenge to the player before the climax of the scenario, the player cannot help but feel like they are constantly fighting the designer, as their units struggle to maneuver and build structures in a rather cramped landscape filled with off-grid objects. The well-conceived notion of having to boom and raid while simultaneously defending an ally was hamstrung by the lack of attacks that the AI launched against either player before the end; the player essentially can boom without pressure to the maximum population before deciding to attack the enemy and trigger the final battle. The raiding mechanics, while interesting and fairly well implemented, led to a final battle that was more frustrating than fun as a plethora of player and enemy troops alike caused lag as they struggled to path through narrow bottlenecks filled with off-grid objects while swarms of ranged units from both sides picked them off like shooting fish in a barrel. Overall it’s a mixed bag, and with some improvement could likely jump up to a much higher rating.

Technical proficiency and quality: 18/25

The map design of this entry was of variable quality; on one hand the author does an excellent job of portraying a diverse set of geographical locations (particularly in the countryside) in a rather creative manner, but on the other hand some aspects of the map could go to see some improvement, such as the roads, the city, and some of the forests, all of which seemed a bit bland and in some cases also detracted from the playability of the scenario, as the pathfinding engine of the HD Edition still seems unable to handle off-grid gaia objects. The dialogues, while well emotionally driven, lost some of their impact in grammatical and spelling mistakes. Conceptually, and in terms of the high creativity level that pervades it, the scenario should be lauded, but the technical implementation was just a bit off, and some of the mechanical flaws of the map unfortunately had somewhat of a butterfly effect.

Total: 35/50

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
posted 04-10-17 01:09 PM CT (US)     138 / 178  
Before presenting my review scores and analysis, i would like to share at Hockeysam's request this Contest Guidelines i wrote for myself, which was written for the purpose of helping me judge the entries in a consistent and methodical way. Perhaps future judges and contests may find this useful, and modify it as they like.
• Gameplay and Entertainment - 25 points

Enjoyment 5

Simply the overall enjoyment of the scenario by the reviewer. This is effected in a positive and negative way by most other categories to one extent or another, so there is not a large point value assigned here;a fun scenario probably will not have low ratings in all the other categories regardless, while an unenjoyable scenario probably has issues somewhere else causing this unhappiness.

Replayability\Variety\Gameplay Variance 5

Can the scenario be played multiple times while remaining fun? Gameplay with choices and variety is key here. One way is to provide the player a choice in squads(Chrombosia) and another is to provide multiple potential starting bases (Tamerlane;Lord of the Horizon) or even different moral alignments (Nyctophobia, Sabato Returns)

Difficulty 5

How hard or easy it is to win the scenario;players of varying skill levels should be receiving an appropriate difficulty depending on if they choose standard, moderate or hard. Skill and tactics should be required to win the game, and the scenario should not be a cakewalk.

Challenges 5

7V1 on a random map is indeed a highly Difficult situation, but is it an interesting challenge to overcome? This category reflects how interesting the difficulty is. Giving the player carefully limited resources to overcome a tough carefully planned out enemy is one way to do it here.

Story\History 5

A good story should be present that provides a context for the gameplay, or a good historical integration that educates and entertains the player simultaneously. Excellent stories tend to favorably impact the Creativity, Atmosphere, and Enjoyment categories.

• Technical Proficiency and Quality - 25 points

Creativity 5

A good use of widespread gameplay elements to spice up the game is called for here. This category is related to many others;the storyline, gameplay variety, and mapping among others. Inspiration in the other categories can be noted and distinguished here.

Objectives 5

The player shouldn't be confused about what to do, or suffer random losses from killing a low HP unit that isn't even mentioned during the story or in the objectives. This doesn't mean the player has to have his hand held and told exactly what to do, where to go, and in what order;however there should be a way to figure these things out clearly from the scenario. This score hinges on the depth and quality of the content contained within the objectives, hints, scouts and historical tabs.

Atmosphere 5

The game can create atmosphere in a variety of ways, such as audio cues or a custom soundtrack. This is closely linked to the story category as well;but the scenario can tell its own tale with gameplay by truly immersing the player into the action. Well written and mature dialogue is a plus here, or a detriment that can mar the experience if simplistic and immature with many grammar mistakes. Language translation shouldn't be considered a penalty;its fine to have spoken german or spanish as long as there are subtitles.

Map Design 10

Maps are the canvas upon which the scenario exists, and creates an eye pleasing environment. There is of very high importance as these visual elements will be what the player is seeing most of the time. The very best maps available should be used as the measuring bar against which other maps are judged, and to earn a similar score maps should compare favorably against the map you are comparing it to. A well detailed map that has had effort put into every single inch of it combined with an eye pleasing aesthetic appeal should be required for the maximum score

"Excellent could be any map that has the quality of a ES random map or ES scenario. AoK is an excellent, award winning game. That's where I'd start." -AnastasiaKafka

"Hard work is evil. Bitmaps are stupid. Working on a scenario for more than one afternoon is stupid. Triggers are stupid. Testing your own scenario is stupid. The world is stupid. You are the Greatest." -Ingo Van Thiel

[This message has been edited by Cataphract887 (edited 04-10-2017 @ 01:20 PM).]

posted 04-10-17 01:12 PM CT (US)     139 / 178  
Here are my scores and comments. I am still confused by discrepancies between the final scores and what is in my document, but i will go ahead and post it.

"Ragnar's Raids" 44\50

Gameplay and Entertainment - 23\25 points

Enjoyment 5\5

There was a great deal of frustration experienced during the scenario, though luckily lag made no appearance. I found the AI to be a bit annoying with its streaming piecemeal approach instead of using formations, the raiding mechanics had some bugs with techs not getting added, the rebellions only struck two holds and struck over and over constantly even if i had a garrison, transport ships are relied upon and they are probably the most infuriating unit in RTS history, and i did feel Ragnar himself wasn't sufficiently badass to live up to the legend.

Weird start for a maximum Enjoyment score? Sure, but all that put aside this truly is a a blast to play! The whole of this scenario surpasses the sum of its parts and delivers a great raiding experience, and takes the player on a journey to conquer a great viking kingdom and smash the milk drinkers into oblivion. I especially liked how Ragnar rather cynically takes over each kingdom, betraying and manipulating each guy in turn and of course keeping the princesses to himself ;-) The game as a whole is a great epic tale even if some parts are held back by the AoC engine and\or could use some refinement.

Variety 5\5

There is a superb of amount of variety on here. Multiple sidequest routes, a wide array of unit with many options in warband choice and ostensibly an open world that gives the player free choice, though i did feel i was compelled to unite the viking kingdoms first and couldn't do much until that was done. Still, this scenario is an excellent example of what i would hope to see with the varied quests, sideplots and ways to earn money and fame.

Difficulty 5\5

The game is quite difficult but still well balanced enough with the player having sufficient assets to achieve the objectives;the strong heroes he has that regenerate when killed are very helpful and should be relied upon heavily. On lower difficulties the AI became much less aggressive which is good i suppose, but i then found it rather boring;i would rather see the AI equally fierce on all levels, and just give bonuses\penalties to make the combat resolve itself in the humans favor a bit more.

Challenges 4\5

The game sets an interesting challenge of rising through the ranks of the Jarls to become king of the vikings. Along the way to build up fame and resources you will need to raid the various coastlines and perform various sidequests, all the while avoiding the powerful enemies while nabbing their goodies. However its the immense difficulty of attacking the english\french that makes me feel like the only good route to follow is to unite the viking ASAP;Ultimately i found myself accomplishing all these goals relying on two things;the Barbarrosa\William Wallace style heroes backed by priests on land, and mostly 50-60 Longboats on the water, who can raze half the map alone and sail into London\Paris easily. For smashing objectives further inland, i found mass ram rushes while launching some distracting attacks elsewhere did the trick.

One minor drawback i felt is with the AI and players unit selections;The enemy has Elite Tuetonic Knights, Genoese Crossbowmen, Cavaliers, and Paladins;fortunately their longbows don't have 6+6 range or i would have raged out. Meanwhile the player does have a wide variety of choices himself, but there is a big problem here with the ETK;every single land unit the vikings have except Arbalests, Skorpians and Onager get hard countered by the ETKs massive armour. You would think vikings would have sweet Berserkers, but we all know this is the worst UU in the game, and without a mini-mod or the enemies upgrades being limited carefully this unit fails utterly. Basically you end up relying on heroes and longboats and end up ignoring most other options, unless you go out of your way to employ them.

Story\History 4\5

The story as present is fairly good taking the player through the exploits of one Ragnar and his rise to fame and power. The dialogue is fairly good but a big issue i found was that quests rolled in randomly and at inopportune times when other stuff was happening, making keep track of things difficult. The story itself seemed a bit on the lightweight side as it often relies on the player making his own story by playing in the open world environment, but in this case i would like to see some rebalancing and more nonlinear quest chains in the viking kingdoms segment so the player initiates these routes with his own actions. I do like the portrayal of Ragnar here;it would have been frustrating if we took the nice guy "oh look at us we are so honorable and righteous" approach so many scenarios take with their "heroes".

Technical Proficiency and Quality - 21\25 points

Creativity 5\5

This is an immensely creative scenario that brings a tremendous amount of content and ideas to the table. Its very ambitious, and much greater in scope than you would expect out of a scenario crafted within the deadlines of a contest;Al_Kharn demonstrates here one of his best talents, which is to create good games at a speedy rate. This is the kind of game you hope to see, and if i sound disappointed at times in other categories its because i see the potential for this scenario to grow with updates into one of the best ever! At times much of my frustration with the scenario can traced back to the faults and problems with AoCs game engine, but i truly do think highly of this attempt. Great work!

Objectives 5\5

The objectives were clear and precise, with good writing skills shown with mature and realistic dialogue. The scouts report was comprehensive, both informing the player of each factions background as well as giving an idea of their military capacities. A bug at the end says i need to claim Konungr Hall of Sverige but i have all the holds on the map as my colour;though i cant raise warbands from the indicated Hall;it only happaned in one playthrough, and is not a big deal.

Atmosphere 4\5

The usage of music to create atmosphere was a good point, as was the mapping at points;the north-lands were a frigid land of hard men, while the southerners were ripe and plum for the picking. However, i did find the feedback on sacking to be underwhelming;the silent tribute technique was used, but there was either none or little dialogue and sacking monasteries quietly added gold to your treasury;i would have preferred the tribute noise to silence. It was nice to see when pillaging certain cities that effects from your devastation would appear, like impaled corpses but again it was rather silent and also the enemies respawning\recovering their strength so easily made me feel like the world wasn't very responsive to my actions.

The opening text was excellent with a good writing quality that provides an immersive introduction into the game;very well done here! I quite enjoyed this opening and find it a good point increasing the overall atmosphere.

There were some bugs that hurt the game here however;i was alarmed when the jomsviking message popped up, but then a success message popped up instantly and they were defeated;this kind of stuff tends to really damage the immersion. At least their units still appeared, though i wouldn't consider them much of a threat to be honest.

Map Design 7\10

I found the map design to be surprisingly underwhelming for a scenario potentially contending for masterpiece status;not that it was ever terrible, but its quite a normal level of mapping. The most striking feature was the somewhat clumsy usage of mountains often with a lack of concealment of their poor features on their base. The terrain detailing was fairly simple, with the various holds and cities being of a rather mundane character. Look at the Hadrians Wall for instance;it even lacks the broken down wall look ive even seen nowadays even in some blacksmith submissions that wouldn't earn a 3.0. The ocean is decent but there are weird spots were single tiles of water create straight edges that should be smoothed out.

Something i dislike about the map layout is how geographically accurate it all is. Did people back then really have satellite imagery to be making a precise world like this? Why not just make a map entirely based on the needs of the gameplay and just have it vaguely resemble the North Sea? The scaling effect of the world makes no sense;cities like London sprawl across half of england. There is not much of a nice, believable countryside to travel, and the villages felt like an extension of a modern, sprawling metropolis.

"Manco Capac" 41\50

Gameplay and Entertainment - 19\25 points

Enjoyment 3\5

I'm just going to embrace a brutally straightforward approach here;quite frankly i didn't enjoy the scenario as much as one would expect from such a well crafted scenario. I grow weary of this B&D formula without any mix-up in gameplay during the game or throughout a campaign;and this may be an entirely unfair point, but this scenario seemed like a "Kings of Destruction" scenario six, just with the Incas this time around. Its just too much to keep making the same scenario over and over;i am in revolt! Mix it up;throw some DTS, RPG, and FF journey segments in to alleviate the fatigue.

Variety 3\5

This category was originally named Replayability, but renamed in order to suit the current review guidelines;under the definition of Variety, this scenario certainly has some of that, with recruit-able men scattered about and mercenaries to consider hiring, who are decent enough but not much beyond that. The way the unit compositions were created made playing as the Inca here annoying;having to fight mounted handcannons calls for Halbs and Skirms, not exactly an exciting unit composition. Basically i didn't feel encouraged to jump back into the game to try out some exciting new approach or experiment with some possibly subobtimal strategy. It is difficult to deviate from the strategy of placing castles on strategic chokepoints.

Difficulty 5\5

The difficulty was carefully balanced, with a strong enemy putting up the characteristic intense fight you come to expect from Bassi scenarios. This AI was putting on pressure to the player from the getgo, ensuring the usual B&D buildup phase was fairly intense, having to balance out defensive needs with economic growth. Perhaps its too carefully balanced, as i found myself growing weary of having to pay so much attention and tried out a standard game;unfortunately there didn't seem to be any difference there in difficulty. What about the guys who are just playing a bit more casual? Its not that hard to add in some crude difficulty scaling systems;more resources, better upgrades, less upgrades for the AI, some free towers\units. I realize you cannot accommodate those people who say ES missions are too hard (?!) but a little something here wouldn't go unappreciated i think.

Challenges 3\5

This measures the interest level the player has with interacting with the difficulty, as well as its objective complexity and quality. For the last point, its certainly of a high quality;the AI puts a steady, well measured opposition and doesn't take its foot off the gas no matter how long you play. That said, i didn't find the game particularly interesting as the player is once again encouraged to mine stone and throw down castles on chokepoints. Im not sure if it was intentional to allow, but housewalls are pretty effective here as well. Something i didn't like is the fact you can just snipe down one enemy TC and knock them out of the game;i knew this would work before even trying, because again its the same as in "Kings of Destruction" from which campaign i basically employed the same strategies learned to straightforwardly win on the first go. I already figured this scenario out just by looking at it, which i find to be uninteresting.

Something that's been annoying me about these scenarios is that there is no way to raid the enemy economy short of smashing key production centers in their main base. The Incas have great raiding abilities with their Courier Eagles but you only use them for sniping a TC here. Why not try making some faux economy for the AIs so you can raid and weaken them this way? Its how you play against actual humans, after all.

Story\History 5\5

The scenario brought with it a substantial amount of historical information combined smoothly with gameplay information in its indepth scouts report, a deep and comprehensive hints section. The objectives were quite clear and straightforward and the player was easily understanding the situation. I did like how this scenario took its time with an intro to setup the situation, though the ending felt a bit lightweight. Still, the whole affair is carried off well enough with good dialogue and serves the gameplay sufficiently.

The history tab was providing a well written introduction to the story, but i still feel like there is a disconnect between this writing and what happens during the gameplay;as regards the gameplay itself, the player is still dropping into what feels like midstory. Why not put some of that history into the game with cutscenes? There was already 6 minutes space allocated;this could have been used to show the player, not just tell him in writing. Some cutscenes to make the player burn with indignation at the evil spaniard, for whom i never felt much emotion towards during the game.

Technical Proficiency and Quality - 22\25 points

Creativity 5\5

Subjective quibbles from the Variety and Challenge categories aside, this is an excellent creative effort. There is a great amount of effort placed into every part of the game to make a good scenario;from the story to the sound assets to the map carefully crafted to bring out a good fighting strength from the AI.

Objectives 4\5

There was a good quality of writing, the player was quite well advised on how to play. The scouts report was excellent in this regard, giving a detailed breakdown on the situation and a bit of background info on each. The hints is sold, but i would expect to see Dramatis Personae under the scouts tab. The history tab is a well written and detailed background for the game. The only imperfection here is the strange black boxes-did something get corrupted? Looks a bit messy to my eyes when reading.

Atmosphere 4\5

I found the music track selected and the story intro, the longest of the competition, set the scene nicely for the gameplay. We enjoyed the cannonade of the bridges, an appropriate example of humor not knocking the viewer out of it. The excellent mapping also made it easy to immerse oneself into the game with its nice environment and plausible bases. There is some good ambient noises as well, though i only noticed these on a playthrough without music on.

Map Design 9\10

Another superb mapping effort that lives up to the expectations the authors name brings awaits;there is a fine level of detailing with outstandingly excellent points of detail. One of the big highlights was the main base with its combined snow and jungle working to great effect;also the bridges were very nice with carefully placed vegetation creating a really great effect. This river is an exemplary model of how to detail a waterway;from one end to another it has little touches and detail work, and instead of running away from beach terrain it embraces and incorporates the unpopular terrain to its benefit.

Another major positive is the effect upon the gameplay;at no times were there any difficult problems posed to the B&D play, nor did units struggle to pathfind at any point. This is starting to become such an issue with maps in HD and also with offgridplacement even on the userpatch that it is notable that this map is perfectly suited for its gameplay.

That said, i do feel the map could benefit from being just a bit more tangled with jungle;there are many wide open areas, which is good for B&D but i do feel its taken a bit too far here. Major pathways had at times a 10+ block clearance given and even the tighter areas felt open, more like grasslands than jungle. Its a bit of a contradiction perhaps as ive often criticized maps such as AmA's "Outlawed" for being too cramped in their B&D but i do think you could have a wee bit less space than this available without it becoming painful.

Finally, to comment on the terrain mixing. Its very good and well done across the map adding interest even to flat areas. However i do think its being relied on a bit much, and sometimes is taken too far with its mixing;in one screenshot i counted atleast 12 terrains for sure and maybe more i couldn't pick out, and certainly more if i panned the camera a bit. This looks busy to me, and perhaps a sign that the use of the new HD terrains, though exciting, has not quite had a chance to mature with time.

About the Jungle itself, i made some 1:1 printouts of Nyctophobia Part One and Two and placed them on my second monitor for comparison;in terms of many technical points of detailing, Manco Capac certainly has the edge;better details, waterways more interesting and of course brilliant use of the new assets and terrain types. But purely in terms of jungle quality, i just think Nyctophobia is a better jungle. Despite its weaknesses, i quite enjoy the tangled feel of the vegetation and the overall effect of its contrasting terrain colors;this Manco Capac is often layering green trees on green grass with green gaia objects, and some of these greens are more vibrantly green than ever before thanks to HD textures. Its just a bit overloaded for my personal aesthetic vision.

"Battle of Lake Trasimene" 34\50

Gameplay and Entertainment - 19\25 points

Enjoyment 4\5

The game was quite enjoyable, with the well upgraded legions providing an intimidating threat and an easy to boom up starting area which is pleasent to play with, though this strong economy can damage the difficulty despite being fun to utilize. Dealing with the massive roman assault near the end was entertaining, as they crushed my army and pushed me back to some fortifications. A bad point is the overuse of off grid placement, which significantly interfered with unit pathfinding.

Variety 3\5

There wasnt a great deal of options and choices available for repeat games. Hannibal was well known for having an army consisting of native troops and mercenaries, so this would have been a great opportunity to have a recruitment system to choose from an array of exotic troops. As it was, the players arsenal was disappointing;there is no reason to use the berber camels, you cannot access the elephants which (unrealistically) characterize the Carthaginians, and the citizen phalanx of Carthage was also not represented. Mostly you can just rely on Hussar and Genitour

Difficulty 4\5

The difficulty was reasonably appropriate, with the enemy legions having a good strength advantage thanks to their high quality troops. However a number of factors result in me seeing the scenario as not all that difficult;high population caps, the availability of stone walls, and a abundance of resources on the map are all contributors. I never needed to mine gold on the island or in the Roman area;massed hussar and genitours are plenty adequate to carry the day. I had the distinct impression the game was harder on moderate than on hard, but it may have been down to playstyle difference between my runs.

Challenges 4\5

The highlight here is the massive attack unleashed by the Flaminius. The attacks launched by Arretium are reasonable, though spaced too far apart and with too few men;they are too easily neutralized by either Monks or Stone Walls. I would have found it more interesting if the roman troops had much less upgrades and more men with faster attacks, every 5 minutes or so. I also found that by aggressively attacking Flaninius' army i could kill off most of it before he launched his attack, which made it a bit boring if you didnt deliberately fail the objective to attack.

Story\History 4\5

The story of the battle is quite interesting, but i found much of the contents if the wiki article on this event wasnt present, although it was enumerated upon in the winning message only after finishing. The history tab has some of this content but i found it didnt explain the situation nearly as well as the wiki, and was of a fairly normal quality. There is a missed opportunity to provide more explanation of how and why Hannibal came to be in this Marsh, and how he pulled off this strategic flanking maneuver. That said, the historical elements and ingame narrative are sufficient for the score provided with the game illustrating the main point of Hannibal, which is to provoke a foolish attack and perform an encircling maneuver.

Technical Proficiency and Quality - 13\25 points

Creativity 3\5

The scenarios concept of needing to raid the countryside to provoke the ill tempered Flaminius is a good one, though the overall scenario seems a bit simple on the whole without a great deal of complexity at any point. Some inspiration with regards to the players unit roster could have been called for, as well as considering the use of audio assets.

Objectives 3\5

The game provided a good clarity on how to play the scenario, and had a normal, good implementation of hints and scouts report, though going a bit more in depth on most of these sections wouldnt have been a bad idea;many of the other submissions had much larger and more detailed scouts reports, for example. Dialogue provided during the game also provided insight into what was happening so the player knew he was making some progress while razing economic buildings.

Atmosphere 2\5

There was quite little invested here, unfortunately;this game plays out like an AoE1 scenario, so why not include that games entire music? I played those tracks in the background and it help out quite a bit. When i played without them, it felt a bit dull and lifeless at times. The dialogues between Hannibal and Flaminius were not particularly well written and plausible sounding.

Map Design 5\10

The map starts of well in a marsh and continues into a map that gives off a pleasant aesthetic appearance, though it is largely quite simplistic and basic in nature. The paved road traversing the map is a bit naive with its straight lines and no terrain mixing with dirts into the grasslands. There is a good deal of shrubbery that looks fairly nice, though it has an unnecessary amount of off grid placement and often makes pathfinding harder and is difficult to cross. The players basecamp has some tents detailed with greenery but this actually conflicts with the B&D as some of the spaces are actually impassible, and its just an annoyance to build around here. Infact the entire map suffers from a prolific overuse of the off grid placement;there is no reason to even use this technique when the map could easily be done in the traditional style;only when the author reaches a point where greater detailing requires this tool, should it be reached for. As it turns out the pathfinding suffers in many areas, and lag is common later when the large legion attacks.The forest to the left of the players starting base has many unnecessary off grid placements which makes harvesting wood a pain. The enemy urban areas are fairly poor;the camp of Flaminius looks quite plain, the faux economy town center plopped randomly near some trees, and Arretium-which i managed to raze to the ground!-is somewhat plain looking. Overall its a fairly normal, even good looking at times map which is suffering from a lack of detail and overdosing of OffGridPlacement.

"Yellow River Burning Bright" 30\50

Gameplay and Entertainment - 13\25 points

Enjoyment 2\5

Not that i disliked the scenario at any point, but the difficulty problems prevented it from ever becoming truly enjoyable. It was somewhat relaxing to play with nice music and a good looking map, but the gameplay was badly impacted by the difficulty;some updates are needed to polish this game although im sure a fine jewel is waiting to be refined underneath the issues.

Variety 3\5

Kicking off with a naval battle, before switching into a sort of defend the spot situation, the game was mixing up its gameplay well. The final segment, the siege battle, wasnt distinct from the pontoon defence section and mostly left to the player in B&D style. With the limitations placed on the players Chinese tech tree, there wasnt much options available with infantry being nerfed,Elite chu ko nu off the table, and no monks. Side quests there were not, and i didnt see the point of the monastery as your cheap spam units dont need healing much.

Difficulty 2\5

There are a few problems that when combined together warrant the low score here, and significantly erode the enjoyment of the scenario as a whole. The first is that the scenario is too difficult without using exploits;when i tried to play without tricks and straight up defend the pontoons it seemed almost impossible on both Hard and Standard, as the AI gets a steady flow of imperial age troops, and the player is in feudal, and one of the pontoons even has an offensive castle covering it. The next is the result of being forced to use to players best weapons to cope with high difficulty, walls and castles;the bane of the AI. In this case its actually possible to build walls inside the pontoons oddly enough, and with a castle behind those walls you can just sit back and relax;i chopped every tree on my side of the map and left the game running to do stuff in real life for long stretches at a time. But the final nail in the coffin is that losing the left pontoon results in the AI being crippled, and its actually hard to avoid losing it anyway. When destroyed, the pontoon is broken but the AI thinks it can cross still, so it tries;meanwhile a tasking object trigger sends its men backward and the two are left in an eternal struggle that doesnt resolve, leaving much of the AI army ineffective.

Challenges 3\5

There is an interesting game on offer with first the river battle, then a struggle to defend the pontoons crossing the river, and finally sieging and destroying the enemy castle. Unfortunately due to issues with the balance being off allowed me to pile up over 100k food with enough gold to buy spies, so swamping the enemy base with soldiers was all too simple.

Story\History 3\5

The story as told was fairly good, with a general being thrust into the emperorship by his over eager soldiers, and there was a narrated story. This story was integrated into the gameplay through the mission segments which put you into position to resolve the action, but the part lacking here for me was context. I dont know much about this event, unlike some others in the contest that i do recognize, and i left the scenario little the wiser as to what was done, where, and what effect it had on history.

Technical Proficiency and Quality - 17-25 points

Creativity 4\5

The implementation of the pontoon bridges, the use of good audio tracks and voice acting, and some nice map design showed a good effort. Its everything you need for a very good scenario, just needing some more polish in other categories.

Objectives 2\5

At first glance this appears to be a strong spot of the scenario. Well written and indepth scouts report;good hints, and an ingame dialogue reinforcing what those sections tell the player with on the spot instructions. The problem is there are two sets of objectives;one that loads at the game startup telling not to kill the Emperor and to place Eight Arbalests within the flags, and a set of objectives that override that when you gain your TC saying you need 12 Elite Cho Ko Nu and not mentioning this Emperor. This is bizarre and makes the scenario unwinnable unless you memorized the first objectives, and i even suffered a random loss from killing the enemy king as i overran their town.

Atmosphere 4\5

A good selection of audio and music was used to immerse the player into the world, and complemented nicely the mapping. The dialogue was on point, and i appreciated the more serious nature of the writing style utilized.

Map Design 7\10

The map design was good, with nice detailing in all areas, and a goodly amount of terrain mixing. The opening military camp is nice, as is the ones present in the B&D though they are a bit superfluous;perhaps they could have contained many more military production buildings. The enemy city looks good with marco polo but by the time the player reaches it, most of its trees are gone. The weakest element is the river, which is a single terrain type and im not a fan of the shoreless and undetailed riverbank.

"Folkungaupproret" 29\50

Gameplay and Entertainment - 15\25 points

Enjoyment 3\5

I was enjoying the game until the B&D segment, when the enemy was just too tough to beat and i had to resort to walls and a castle. Then it became quite boring with the low population limit to accumulate resources before pushing on their castle. I also suffered a random loss once in the siege segment as the queen was near enough some halbs from earlier that she actually got targeted and killed, even though the player had no LOS on that region of the map.

Variety 3\5

There is a nice mixup between traveling sections, sieges, and B&D but the overall simplicity saps any value from multiple playthroughs as there is little to do different in multiple playthroughs besides implementing the basic strategy all over again. There was an optional objective to make a castle on the lake purely for historical accuracy;why not reward the player in some way for this? Giving that castle +6 range or something would be amusing.

Difficulty 3\5

For the most part the balance was by the book, as the enemies put up an appropriate resistance and posed a serious threat of losing to the player. However its the final act which undermines it all, as the enemy is far to strong off the bat-and that forces you to spam walls and cheese them with a castle, to which the AI has no answer, making it very easy.

Challenges 3\5

The challenges provided are quite interesting to me, and i quite like these scenarios with multiple acts one after another. However, they are all rather short and simplistic with little depth which limits their potential. The final segment can be cheesed with walls and castles, and you can snipe parts of their base with trebs from the side.

Story\History 3\5

This scenario is a victim of Campaign Syndrome-having existed as part of a cohesive storyline, it must now be judged as an individual. It is unclear where and what is happening, and the ending wasnt too clear on what the significance was either. There is an ongoing plot within the scenario with dialogue and events, but its quite slight and only takes form in sufficient shape so as to provide an excuse for the gameplay.

Technical Proficiency and Quality - 14\25 points

Creativity 3\5

The overall impression of the mission was somewhat unimpressive, as its lack of depth is strikingly evident at all times. There was a good amount of variety in content, a good map, and decent storytelling that amounts to a normal score. There were a number of flaws like the enemy retaining control of their eastern buildings and amassing troops in the nonplayable area, the ability to buy spies for only 200 gold, and things like seeing horses you own to avoid being defeated smacks of a lack of fine polish.

Objectives 3\5

The mission was quite clear on what to do with no confusion experienced at any point. The scouts report was a fairly normal description of what is going on, while the hints explain some fairly obvious things like pointing out you start in the Imperial Age, which is also noticable on the main HUD by most players.

Atmosphere 2\5

There wasnt a great deal of immersion in the final scenario. The storyline was fairly scant so i wasnt sure why i should care about events, and some of the music-like audio tracks provided were not used in this scenario. The spoken dialogue was in another language, which is not a penalty to the score but i cannot appreciate what it adds myself.

Map Design 6\10

The map was nice looking and pleasant to play in, though its small size often allowed the player to see into old areas and across many geographic barriers. There was often visible points of extreme simplicity, like the cliffs surrounded with plain forest terrain.

"Excellent could be any map that has the quality of a ES random map or ES scenario. AoK is an excellent, award winning game. That's where I'd start." -AnastasiaKafka

"Hard work is evil. Bitmaps are stupid. Working on a scenario for more than one afternoon is stupid. Triggers are stupid. Testing your own scenario is stupid. The world is stupid. You are the Greatest." -Ingo Van Thiel

[This message has been edited by Cataphract887 (edited 04-10-2017 @ 02:24 PM).]

posted 04-10-17 01:19 PM CT (US)     140 / 178  
As an aside, it should be noted that while the scores accurately represent the current state of each entry, I do not think that all of them reflect the potential of the entries. For the most part they were all of quite high quality but were held back in some spots by certain bugs or various other issues that should be relatively easy to address. I think that given an update requiring a relatively low investment of time, all of these would score at least a 4.0 on an AoKH Blacksmith review.

~ Forgotten Empires ~

Storm on the Steppe | Galderton Hill RP | Proud member of Stormwind Studios

"Deyr fé, deyja frændr, deyr sjálfr it sama; ek veit einn at aldri deyr, dómr um dauðan hvern." - Hávamál 77.
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